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By Caroline Markham

 

When we think of plastic, we think of the obvious everyday objects around us, such as plastic bags, plastics bottles, containers, etc. But in reality, it is in everything around us- from our clothes to our electronics, to the mattresses that we sleep on at night. Almost every single thing that we buy as consumers contains some form of plastic in it. And of course, we know that it is terrible for our planet- but we are beginning to find out through research that it is just as detrimental to our own health as well.

Hand knitting a bag using recycled plastic

Plastic never fully goes away, which I’m sure you have heard a million times. But what actually happens to it then? According to this guardian article, ‘when plastic is exposed to sunlight, oxygen, or the action of waves, it doesn’t biodegrade but simply fragments into smaller and smaller bits, until these microscopic particles enter the food chain, the air, the soil and the water that we drink.’ Some of these microplastics are no larger than the width of a single strand of human hair- making it easy to accidentally contaminate products we are consuming, from beer and honey right down to our tap water.

So what is so problematic with this? It’s the fact that most of these tiny particles of plastic are suspected to contain cancer causing chemicals called ‘carcinogens’- and they are turning up inside of us. This has been explicitly stated in the US National Library of Medicine’s journals published online. According to the Plastics and carcinogenesis: The example of vinyl chloride journal, “The manufacture, use and disposal of various plastics can pose numerous health risks, including the risk of cancer.” In one study featured in the Guardian article, ‘95% of all adults tested in the US had known carcinogenic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in their urine,’ which is found in plastic everywhere, most commonly in plastic water bottles. In the study named ‘the plastic inside us’, 83% of samples of tap water tested in seven countries were found to contain plastic microfibers.

We don’t need plastic, it’s just usually the cheapest way to make consumer products. There are countless examples of people all over the world using natural resources for products, such as our very own women of Sani Isla. Through one of our partnered projects with them, these women make artisan crafts made of local seeds, vines and fibers, and it’s producing a sustainable source of income for them. Just another great example that we don’t need plastic!

Countless different research studies are starting to examine these worrying findings, yet there doesn’t seem to be any slow down on the production of plastics. We are coming to a point where we desperately need our governments to begin to take action through forming some kind of plastic plan that reduces the production and usage of it. Alternatives to plastic have always been here- but most corporations want the cheaper and easier way out. It’s time we start urging our governments to implement and enforce these alternative plastic plans. Keep up the recycling by all means, but we it’s time to take it a step further.

There are countless examples of people all over the world using natural resources for products, such as our very own women of Sani Isla. Through one of our partnered projects with them, these women make most of their artisan crafts using local seeds, vines and fibers, and it’s producing a sustainable source of income for them. They do use some plastic when weaving together baskets and handmade bags, but they use all recycled plastic. The Chipaota people of Peru use palm fibers through our project promoting sustainable usage of the Rainforests resources. They use these palm fibers to make things from handmade baskets to brooms. The indigenous people of South America inspire us every day!

Handmade Jewelry

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3327051/

https://orbmedia.org/stories/Invisibles_plastics

https://amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/28/plastic-crisis-urgent-recycling-bottles-no-fix?__twitter_impression=true